Juninho-Red Bulls

Brazilian midfielder Juninho leaves New York Red Bulls

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“Ah man, we never even got to see one of his awesome free kicks…”

That is likely to be the response from fans of Major League Soccer and the New York Red Bulls after today’s announcement that Brazilian legend Juninho has agreed to cancel his contract.

After only half a season in MLS, Juninho didn’t do much to endear himself to Red Bulls fans. Reports concerning Juninho’s retirement at the end of this season has surfaced recently, but there’s no need to worry about that now.

The 38-year-old former Lyon star was always a questionable acquisition by New York. Just check out Steve Davis’ take on Juninho when he signed way back in December 2012.

Ahem, told you so.

The fact that we never got to see one of those magnificent dipping free kicks which Juninho made his trademark whilst at Lyon upsets me. And Steve. And probably most soccer fans out there. Because boy, they were spectacular.

It seemed that every time I watched a Lyon game on the European highlights show as a youngster, Juninho would arch some incredible free kick into the top corner. The bend he got on those babies make Cristiano Ronaldo’s set pieces look pedestrian.

(MORE: Dead ball specialist Juninho signs for New York Red Bulls)

But the fact that I can recall Juninho’s brilliance way back to my early childhood, is in essence the main problem here. Major League Soccer is full of tremendous athletes, who play throughout the summer in hot conditions, on turf fields and it is an extremely physically demanding league. Juninho is 38. He is slight. And he doesn’t want to do much running anymore. He is a playmaker. His type may be dying out in MLS.

On his official Facebook page Juninho spoke of his decision to cancel his contract with New York. “I am leaving New York because I wasn’t playing well. Also I wasn’t getting along with the manager.”

He also said that he would return to his homeland to think about his next move.

You can’t blame the Red Bulls for giving him a try. In theory, having a dead ball specialist on hand and someone to sit in behind the front two and create chances for Thierry Henry and Fabian Espindola was a magical idea. But that’s all it was. In fact Juninho got more yellow cards (5) than assist (4) and didn’t score once in his 13 matches with New York.

We said it on this blog when Juninho signed. Quote: “Debilitating heat and burden of soccer-combat in a highly physical league, can sometimes leave technical types ill equipped to deal with it all. We’ll see.”

We did see. And we were right here at Pro Soccer Talk. But that does nothing to numb the pain of never seeing Juninho Pernambucano bend one of those magical free kicks into an MLS net.

Oh well, can’t win ’em all. Best of luck in your future endeavors, Juninho.

EFL Cup Tues. preview: Spurs-Reds, plenty of non-PL participants

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on August 27, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Sixteen teams remain in the battle to clinch the Premier League’s first European place of next season’s tournament, and we have some tremendous battles on tap for Tuesday and Wednesday in the EFL Cup (formerly the League Cup).

Today we focus on the 24 hours ahead of us, focusing on Tuesday’s five matches and allowing the Manchester Derby, West Ham-Chelsea, and Southampton-Sunderland to percolate a bit.

[ MORE: Finland’s “Leicester” gets it done ]

That’s not to say we don’t have a pair of giants dueling on Tuesday. Liverpool is three wins away from a return to the final, where the Reds fell in penalties last season. Standing in their way is Tottenham Hotspur, a deep squad which won’t have to worry much about a quick turnaround from Saturday.

That said, the Reds didn’t have to play at all last week, while this will be Spurs third match in a week. Spurs have been to the EFL Cup final thrice since 2008, and one of two teams (Chelsea) to make three finals this decade. Liverpool will start Simon Mignolet between the sticks.

The remaining four EFL Cup matches include at least one team outside the Premier League.

Arsenal will host USMNT midfielder Danny Williams and Reading.

— Hull City is off to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City.

— Newcastle United is leading the Championship, and will get a visit from Preston North End in the first of two matches between the two sides this week.

— Norwich City will pay a visit to Elland Road and Garry Monk‘s Leeds United.

FC Dallas gave injured Mauro Diaz a home champagne shower (video)

FRISCO, TX - APRIL 12:  Mauro Diaz #10 of the FC Dallas controls the ball against the Seattle Sounders FC on April 12, 2014 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images
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FC Dallas has two jewels of its triple crown all set, having claimed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.

One of the key reasons the club was able to sustain its pace this season was Mauro Diaz, 25, who shone even as Fabian Castillo shockingly left the club before the stretch run.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

A River Plate product, Diaz gave FCD seven goals and 15 assists over 32 appearances before tearing an achilles tendon last week.

Diaz underwent season-ending surgery, but his teammates made sure he was a part of the champagne celebration by heading to his very nice-looking house for an early morning visit.

[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]


VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 9

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There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.

Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.

The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.

Finnish fans celebrate surprise title for IFK Mariehamn

IFK Mariehamm
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HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.

“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.

Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.

[ MORE: Full MLS Cup bracket ]

Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.

Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.

Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast